The Greatest Catchers Of All Time – In Terms of Throwing Out Base Stealers!

The Greatest Catchers Of All Time – In Terms of Throwing Out Base Stealers!

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The Greatest Catchers Of All Time – In Terms of Throwing Out Base Stealers!

While doing the research for my recent post about Roy Campanella, one of the interesting stats I uncovered about the great Hall-of-Fame catcher is that Campy has the highest “caught stealing” percentage in major league history. He caught potential base stealers at an almost unbelievable 57.40% rate.

Just think about that for a minute… How many catchers have there been in major league history? 1,000? 5,000? (Maybe one of our readers who’s good in math can come up with a “ballpark figure.” Pun intended!). Whatever the number is, no catcher ever threw out base stealers with a higher degree of efficiency than Campy.

This got me to thinking about this important, often over-looked statistic. With a little more research, I discovered there have been only 15 catchers in baseball history who have a career caught-stealing percentage of 50% or higher. I also found a list of the Top-400 catchers listed by caught-stealing percentage. Again, considering the numbers of catchers in history, anyone who makes the Top-400 must be pretty good in my book.

Just for the fun of it, I pulled out a few names along with their position on the Top-400 list. Some of these just might surprise you:

#32: Yogi Berra (48.61%); #48: Ernie Lombardi (47.65%); #65: Bill Dickey (46.59); #70: Birdie Tebbitts (46.37%); #80: Del Crandall (45.85%); #82: Wally Schang (45.85); #84: Ivan Rodriquez (45.68%); #130: Elston Howard (43.90%); #140: Johnny Bench (43.47%); #189: Yadier Molina (41.20%); #205: Joe Torre (40.60%); #244: Mickey Cochrane (39.40%); #333: Joe Garagiola (36.10%); #361: Bob Brenley (35.26%); #363: Gary Carter (35.10%); #365: Mike Matheny (35.06%); #396: Carlton Fisk (33.81%).

How many of the top 15 catchers with caught-stealing percentages at 50% or higher do you think you can name? Here’s a couple hints: Of the top 15, four are in the Hall of Fame. Number two is Gabby Hartnett, with a percentage just slightly below Campy’s at 56.11%.

Since I featured Campy recently, I’ll say a little about the career of #2, the great Hall-of-Famer, Gabby Hartnett.

In the featured photo below, we see a great action shot of Gabby Hartnett applying the tag to a high-sliding Dick Bartell trying to complete an inside-the-park home run, September 17, 1932. The umpire is Dolly Stark.

In a 20-year major league career, Hartnett hit .297, with 236 home runs, 1,179 RBIs, a .370 on-base percentage, and .489 slugging average. He caught 100 or more games for a record 12 times, including a record eight seasons in a row. He led the National League in putouts four times and assists and fielding percentage six times, and double plays seven times, including National league records of 163 career double plays and 453 chances without an error (since broken). Until Johnny Bench came along, Hartnett was considered the greatest catcher in the history of the National League.

Gabby Hartnett took part of some of the most memorable events in major league history including Babe Ruth’s Called Shot during the 1932 World Series, and Carl Hubbell’s strike out performance in the 1934 All-Star Game. His greatest moment career came with one week left in the 1938 season, when he hit a game-winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to put the Cubs into first place. The event, which occurred as darkness descended onto Wrigley Field, became immortalized as the Homer in the Gloamin’.

The Top-15: 1. Roy Campanella (57.40%); 2. Gabby Hartnett (56.11%); 3. Buddy Rosar (54.81); 4. Al Lopez (54.05%); 5. Mickey O’Neil (53.09%), 6. Hank Gowdy (52.53%); 7. Ray Meuller (51.91%); 8. Sam Agnew (51.69%); 9. Ray Schalk (51.59%); 10. Jimmy Archer (52. 35%); 11. Patsy Gharrity (50.99%); 12. Gus Mancuso (50.69%); 13. Paul Richards (50.35%); 14. Clyde Klutz (50.31%); 15. Mickey Owen (50.29%).

Gary Livacari

Photo Credits: All from Google search

Information: Excerpts edited from Baseball Reference.com.

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I'm a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

5 Comments

  1. Rich Giandana · January 30, 2018 Reply

    Gary – I wondered about the same stats while reading your post on Campy. Thanks for your great story.

    I wonder if some of the reasons for more recent catchers not reaching those levels of throwing guys out are that players now are in much better shape than they were then, and the fact that there are more faster Latin and African-American players than there were then, as in zero. I thought Pudge and Bench would be higher on the list. I’ll have to check on my current favorite, Mr. Posey.

  2. Gary Livacari · January 30, 2018 Reply

    Thanks Rich…Makes a lot of sense. I’m going to post your comments on the Facebook page.

  3. Frank Mancso · January 31, 2018 Reply

    Nice! My Uncle Gus is #12!

  4. Tito Stevens · January 31, 2018 Reply

    Mickey Owen 50.29% is 15th on the list and yet he’s remembered for the one pitch that got away from him.

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